"Do you work on a contingent fee basis?"

There are several advantages to choosing a personal injury firm that works on a contingent fee basis. Most importantly, it ensures that you won't pay for the attorneys time unless they are able to make a recovery on your behalf. The firm you choose should never charge upfront fees.

"What are the different types of cases you handle?" 

Make sure you get a complete answer to this question.

A lawyer may be quick to accept your case, but you need to make sure personal injury law is their primary focus. Many firms are set up to practice general law, meaning they handle a little bit of everything.

You wouldn't want a dentist fixing your eyes, so don't let "any-lawyer" work on your personal injury case!

"How long has your law firm been practicing personal injury law?"

Many firms will boast about their combined years of experience. While this can be good, it also refers to several attorneys combining all their years together to make it look like the firm has practiced more years than it really has.

Make sure you ask how many years the law firm has been practicing personal injury. There are few substitutes for history and experience.

"Do other law firms refer cases to you?" 

This is important for two reasons: 

1.  An attorney that receives referrals from other attorneys does so because he is thought of as an expert and leader in his field. An attorney will only refer a case to another law firm is they feel that firm is respected and will get results.

2.  An attorney will accept referrals if they are serious about helping injury clients. The fact that the case came to them by way of another attorney shouldn't matter. Ego should never be involved.

"Do you have several years experience trying cases like mine in front of a jury?"

This is a critical question. 

If the attorney you're considering doesn't have trial experience with cases similar to your own, their inexperience may show in a courtroom setting, potentially costing you thousands of dollars, or perhaps your entire case.

Being represented by a professional attorney against the insurance company is one of the most valuable assets an attorney provides--having this leverage at your disposal holds the insurance company accountable. 

If the insurance company believes your attorney is afraid to take your case to court, or has a poor courtroom record, you'll likely never receive the money you deserve.

"Does your law firm use advanced technology?"

It wasn't long ago that law firms would document all of the details of a case by pen and paper. In fact, some attorneys still use this method. In today's high-tech world, your law firm should employ state-of-the-art technology, such as advanced case management systems.

Advanced case management systems are important for several reasons:

--it gives the client increased privacy and confidentiality.

--it keeps your case file protected from fire, break-ins, or being lost.

--it allows an attorney to create a professional and organized electronic chronology of your case from start to finish.  

"How long will it take to resolve my case?"

No attorney can predict the exact time it will take to settle your case. The answer will depend on certain factors, such as how long you treat for your injuries. More important, it will be contingent upon on how many resources the attorney is willing to dedicate to your case.

"How often will I receive updates about the status of my case?"

The attorney should be able to tell you how their office handles a case from start to finish. They should be able to explain to you the life-cycle of a case and who will be working on your case during the different stages. 

"Do I have any responsibilities while you work on my case?"

Beside keeping your doctor's appointments and following their instructions with regard to your treatment, you should be doing very little work for your own case. 

You hire a a law firm to work for you, not the other way around, so if an attorney gives you a long to-do list, be suspicious.

"Do you work with experts and professionals that can strengthen my case?"

Personal injury cases that involve traumatic injuries will sometimes require expert testimony from professionals in a variety of fields, including medicine, accident reconstruction, economic analysis, etc. The law firm you select should have successful working relationships with experts of all types.

"What is the fee if you win my personal injury case?"

An attorney should have no problem with telling you this information up front. The fee should never be so low as to leave you wondering if something is being left out, and it shouldn't be extraordinarily high. The standard fee an expert personal injury attorney charges is typically 33%. 

(Make sure to ask the lawyer what happens to that fee if your case ends up in court. Some law firms will have what is known as a sliding-fee scale. This means that they charge 33% up front, but if your case ends up in a courtroom, that fee increases. Select an attorney that does not charge a sliding-fee.)

"Are you involved in any charitable projects within your community?"

Though it may seem like a question that doesn't affect you or your case directly, it can. A law firm that dedicates their time to the community, will likely dedicate the same levels of passion and care toward your personal injury case. 

Many people, having never hired a lawyer, are not aware that lawyers and law firms specialize and have different degrees of experience. Not all lawyers are equally qualified to obtain similar results for injured victims. Unlike the medical profession which has unique titles for each specialty, there is a general perception that lawyers perform most legal services with equal ability. Nothing could be further from the truth. Be sure you understand the unbiased system used to rate attorneys before you choose one.

No matter where you live, and depending on your preference, our Indianapolis personal injury lawyer team can visit with you at your home, in the hospital, or at one of our firm’s several Indiana locations, including three offices in Indianapolis.

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller